Magic: Expectation via Reality.

A bit of magic helps us go forth on a January day…

In my last blog I wrote about the lull that follows the Christmas break; how I struggle with letting go of the festivities and try to deal with post Christmas blues. I talked about how we can learn from children – how they enjoy the moment and then move on and run headlong into the New Year, with all the new experiences and occasions.

I still find my emotions lurching about this week, especially after being laid low with some sort of bug that has been doing the rounds. When I say lurching, I mean the sinking feeling that creeps up unannounced and makes you miserable even though you are trying to be positive. (There is a great advert on television doing the rounds at the moment; the insurance it is trying to plug is by the by, but it features a boxer dog asking with a shocked expression if Christmas is over. His plaintive response of ‘Oh No!’ when he realises this is the case is priceless and absolutely sums up how I feel!).

I think one of the reasons for the blues this time of the year is the fact that we realise we have to get back to the normal routine; life takes on an ordered pattern again, and it can be difficult to be motivated when the days are still short and celebrations are over. Then again, some people relish the new year and the very fact that they can move on with plans and look forward to what is in store. We are all different and whilst I think too much time making plans means we don’t concentrate on today, I think the optimist who relishes looking forward is to be envied.

But I have come to the conclusion that I need to fall back on the inspiration that lies around me to make progress. This is my way of looking forward. I need to look for magic. I heard someone say the other day that they didn’t believe in any form of religion because they didn’t believe in anything they couldn’t see. I couldn’t disagree more with this; I am not necessarily focusing on religion here, but there are many things we cannot see yet know exist. Think of the leaves on the trees rustling in the breeze – we cannot see the wind yet we know it is there. Think of the electricity that brings power to our homes; we cannot see it yet we still touch the light switch knowing the power is there to lighten our darkness.

Sometimes it is easy to ignore new ideas and inspiration when we are busy getting on with everyday challenges. But it is at these times when we need magic and inspiration the most. ‘Thinking outside the box’ is an overused expression but is applicable here. For on a grey January day when we feel we are caught up in ordinariness and routine, it is the time to do just that. There is no ordinary day. Every day contains some magic whatever our situation and if we are open to it.

In a way, magic is difficult to define. I have looked up the definition in the Oxford Living Dictionaries. One says: The power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces…hmm I’m not sure that is how I think of magic. Another says: Mysterious tricks, such as making things disappear and reappear, performed as entertainment… that is not my favourite idea either. But this – this is the one I really like: A quality of being beautiful and delightful in a way that seems remote from daily life.

I don’t take the above expression to mean remote in a negative way, I take it to mean something that takes us away from normal routine and injects some sparkle into our life and our thinking.

Magic isn’t about waving a wand. We can find magic in small things. To me, the early snowdrops appearing in the churchyard are magical, as is the sunlight sparkling on the river on a frosty day.

The world is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper’.
W.B. Yeats


‘And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it’.
Roald Dahl

I think magic is all around us, even in everyday things and somehow it crosses the divide between itself and reality. Magic and reality can exist together. Think of advanced technology – it is indistinguishable from magic.

When I look around the countryside this time of the year, I remind myself that although all appears quiet and bare, new life sleeps as yet unseen, ready to burst forth and enchant us in the spring; soon nature will make a brand new start, never stopping to question the mood of its heart.

So let us rely on a bit of magic this time of year. Let’s gain inspiration from ‘feel good’ stories and acts of kindness and believe in ourselves. With faith, good times will be more likely to appear.

Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen’.
John Wolfgang von Goethe

Just before writing this blog I had sent a text to my son who is on a business trip abroad. I asked him how things were going. I just received a reply from him – ‘All gold, mum’ x . There is some magic there somewhere!

Wishing you a magical week.

close up photo of a bed of white flowers
Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

The Importance of Sleep and the Effects on Anxiety

I am continuing on the theme of anxiety this week, and the condition that seems to conspire to make it worse -lack of sleep.

Good quality sleep is so important. Ideally we should get eight hours a night. With families to look after and demanding jobs or even a thriving social life, we often do not get that peaceful night’s sleep that we should. Sleep plays a big role in your physical health and mental health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repairing your body and supporting good brain function. In children and teenagers, sleep also helps support growth and development so perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on our teenagers when we have trouble getting them out of bed! Lack of sleep can impact on us in many ways and even harm over time; deficiency can raise your risk of some chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and can also affect how well you think, react, work, learn and get along with others. It can affect our safety too; if we are tired when performing important tasks such as driving or operating machinery we can be prone to accidents. Children who lack sleep may struggle with school work and examinations.

Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you are sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day; it is forming new pathways to help you learn and take in information. It may be that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain , so if you are sleep deficient you may have trouble making decisions or controlling your emotions and behaviour. It will also play a part in anxiety and depression.

Sleep is important in regulating the hormones in your body such as insulin which controls your blood sugar, and important growth hormones in children. Another interesting point is that lack of sleep makes you hungry, so if you battle with your weight and controlling your eating it may be worth thinking about a few early nights!

Melatonin and sleep

The pattern of waking up naturally when it is light and sleeping at night when it is dark is a natural part of human life. A key factor in how we sleep is regulated by exposure to light or darkness. You may say this is obvious, but in modern times we do not really sleep in the way our ancestors did or indeed as animals do. Melatonin is a natural and beneficial hormone produced by the pineal gland in your brain. During the day this gland is inactive. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal gland starts to function and releases melatonin. This has the effect of naturally slowing the body down and preparing us for sleep. When we sleep melatonin levels stay elevated in the body and then fall again with the light of the new day. So we see that light affects how much melatonin the body produces. During the shorter days of winter, your body may produce melatonin either earlier or later in the day than usual and this change can have an effect on mood, often called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is good to make sure your curtains are drawn at night and the bedroom is dark; all appliances should be switched off and try not to have a television in the room! Leave your mobile out of immediate range too! (It can be done!) All electronic devices can interfere with your sleep. One thing I try and do (and often find it hard to stick to) is to have a ‘wind down’ spell after 8pm. This means staying away from the computer and leaving unfinished work until the next day. Most emails can wait until the morning! Also, I try to avoid listening to late night news so that I don’t go to bed feeling troubled.

In the dark night hours, there is nothing much worse than laying awake tossing and turning. Every minor problem and worry about tomorrow becomes magnified and before you know it you have a whole list of possible bad scenarios bubbling up in your mind. The best thing to do in this situation is to get up. Instead of staying in bed worrying about how many hours sleep you will be missing and fearing you will be a wreck the next day, go and make a warm drink and try and clear your mind with some calm thoughts. Do something else for thirty minutes until you feel really tired. Just be sure it’s not something too stimulating or involving bright light.

When laying in bed, try relaxing all the muscles in your body from head to toe. This is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation and is a good way of winding down when you get into bed at night. Once you are laying quietly, work through your muscle groups from head to toe. Start with your face: lift your eyebrows and wrinkle the forehead, then close your eyes tightly before opening them and relaxing. Tense your lips, cheeks, and jaw muscles by grimacing, then feel the serenity come over you as you relax all your facial muscles. Work down through the body, tensing and then relaxing the shoulders and arms, the chest and abdomen, (breathing deeply and exhaling as you relax), the back muscles, hips and buttocks, and lastly, the legs and feet. After you have systematically tightened and relaxed all the muscle groups in your body, you should feel more relaxed and calm. You may even fall asleep half way through!

Relaxation CDs

I love to listen to soothing music at night. It’s great for helping you drift off. I recommend any CD by Bliss – find out more at: http://www.bliss-music.com Also anything by the wonderful Lucinda Drayton  – look at her website: Lucind Drayton – Music-Life-Meditation http://www.lucindadrayton.com

Sleep is very important in helping put away the thoughts from yesterday; with good restful sleep the brain can organise and sort the good thoughts from the bad and do away with ‘mind chatter’ so you can awake refreshed and ready to face a new day with new mental awareness.

During the day and often the evening too, especially this time of the year, I have a Himalayan salt lamp plugged in. I have read various reports about their possible health benefits, such as cleansing the air, helping to reduce allergies, increasing energy levels, helping with sleep, treating Seasonal Affective Disorder, and producing an environmentally friendly light source. Whatever their benefits, I do know they certainly lighten up any room with their friendly warm glow and seem to freshen the air too. You can place them on a desk, in your living room, next to the bed or anywhere you choose.

When you are awake at night and feel the darkness closing in, remember that everything will feel better in the morning. Ok not everything perhaps, especially if you have any ongoing troubles, but you will be able to put things more into perspective when you are up and about, have opened the curtains, and chased away the night. And if you do lay awake worrying, remember also,  that there is nothing at all you can do about anything in the night time hours, so you may as well get to sleep and think about it again another time!

Sleep well!

dreaming

As the sun sets, fold away your cares of the day and leave them outside your door. Then, wait to glimpse the moon and stars and know the Universe is wiser then we can ever be’.